Operation #CollateralFreedom circumvents Internet censorship by means of a strategy in which “mirrors” or duplicates of the censored websites are created on international servers belonging to the world’s Internet giants. If a country wants to block access to the mirrors, it must also deprive itself of access to all the sites and services hosted on these servers, which would inflict significant “collateral damage” on its own economy.
Collateral Freedom: thwarting censorship in 18 “Enemy of the Internet” countries
In September 2020, RSF unblocks three additional news sites blocked by the Belarusian government after the controversial results of the presidential elections of 9 August 2020.
RSF has restored access to eight additional websites that have been blocked in their own country for publishing information about theCOVID-19 pandemic that did not toe the government line.
Collateral Freedom: how RSF frustrates censorship
In order to circumvent website blocking by governments that violate human rights and are Enemies of the Internet, RSF uses the technique known as “mirroring” to duplicate the censored sites and place the copies on the international servers of Internet giants. Blocking these servers in order to make the mirror sites inaccessible would deprive thousands of companies in these countries of access to essential technologies. The economic and political cost would be very high, and hard for the governments to accept.
RSF rents bandwidth for this operation that is gradually used up as more and more people visit the mirror sites. We therefore ask Internet users to help pay for additional bandwidth so that the mirror sites will be available for as long as possible.
15 new websites unblocked in 2020
The mirror sites created by RSF in 2020
RSF blocked in Egypt. Mirror: https://rwb.global.ssl.fastly....
La Voix de Djibouti blocked in Djibouti. Mirror: https://voxdji.global.ssl.fast...
Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch (mingsheng guancha) blocked in China.*
Weiquanwang (维权网) blocked in China.*
Masheka.by blocked in Belarus. Mirror : https://masheka.global.ssl.fastly.net/
Vkurier.by blocked in Belarus. Mirror: https://vkurier.global.ssl.fastly.net/
Tribuna blocked in Belarus. Mirror: https://bytribuna.global.ssl.fastly.net/
Narinjara News blocked in Myanmar. Mirror: http://narinjara.global.ssl.fastly.net/
Development Media Group (English site) blocked in Myanmar. Mirror: https://dmediag.global.ssl.fastly.net/
Development Media Group (Burmese-language site) blocked in Myanmar. Mirror: http://dmgburmese.global.ssl.fastly.net/
The Stateless blocked in Myanmar. Mirror: https://thestateless.global.ssl.fastly.net/
Monoroom.info blocked in Cambodia. Mirror: https://monoroom.global.ssl.fastly.net
Akhbor blocked in Tajikistan. Mirror: https://akhbor.global.ssl.fastly.net/
Charter 97 blocked in Belarus. Mirror: https://charter97.global.ssl.fastly.net/
Turan blocked in Azerbaijan. Mirror: https://turan.global.ssl.fastly.net/
*For security reasons, the link is not communicated.
How we are doing it
Circumventing state censorship in order to unblock these 15 websites is only possible with sophisticated techniques known as “mirroring.”
To understand this process, it is important to know that each site is hosted on a server that the censors block to prevent access to the content. The authorities or other groups can attack IP addresses, domain names and content.
To prevent this kind of blocking in the first round of Operation Collateral Freedom, RSF used techniques based on those developed by GreatFire, an NGO that has carried out many operations of this kind with the aim of circumventing Chinese government censorship.
Last February, RSF set itself the goal of improving the process for creating virtual copies of these censored sites. At the end of the Collateral Freedom hackathon organised by RSF and hosted by the Cantine de Brest, volunteer developers managed to create a new script allowing the content of the censored site to be displayed, in real time, on an uncensored server.
The unblocked sites will be hosted on a strategic server run by a major service provider such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google, one that would-be censoring governments would be unlikely to block because the “collateral” disruption and damage would outweigh the potential benefits.
For all this to work, bandwidth has to be bought on the new server (operated by Amazon or one of the other companies). A given sum of money buys a specific amount of bandwidth, the duration of which depends on the volume of visits to the unblocked sites. The more the site is visited, the quicker the bandwidth is used up.
This is why we have made it possible for you to make an online donation that will be used to buy more bandwidth and thereby extend the duration of this operation against the enemies of the Internet.
RSF has to buy bandwidth to keep its mirror sites accessible. The more they are visited, the faster this bandwidth is used up. By making a donation, every Internet user can help to fund the bandwidth needed to maintain and extend access to the unblocked websites. New: RSF is offering a Google Chrome and Firefox browser extension called “Censorship detector” that facilitates access to websites within the countries where they are censored.